Normally the lens, which is the part of the eye that helps you see an image, is clear. Once cataracts begin to develop, this clear lens becomes clouded and the images you see will appear blurred. Generally cataracts gradually develop over time, clouding a small area of the lens initially and then continuing to grow larger. Even small cataracts can make day to day activities such as reading or driving challenging.

When things get blurry….

Vision issues are both the most noticeable and common side effect of cataracts. Cloudy or blurred vision, sensitivity to light, poor night vision, double vision, and issues with colors fading are all visual side effects of cataracts. Oftentimes, the development of cataracts will cause frequent changes in eyeglass or contact lens prescriptions. It is important to note that these symptoms can also be a sign of other eye problems as well.

There are various types of cataracts but most cataracts are related to aging. In the United States, it is incredibly common for someone to have been diagnosed with cataracts or have had cataract surgery by age 65. A doctor can diagnose cataracts during a standard eye exam.  Your doctor may perform a number of examinations but most commonly they will do a visual acuity test to gauge how well you can see, test the pressure in your eyes and do a dilated eye exam in order to examine the retina and optic nerve.

Cataracts that aren’t related to aging may be caused by trauma to the eye from injury or surgery, prolonged use of certain medications including corticosteroids and health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Certain lifestyle choices like smoking and alcohol use may also heighten the risk for developing cataracts.

Although uncommon, it is possible for babies or young children to have cataracts as well. Congenital cataracts are present at birth and at this time have no known cause.

Adjust your vision

Early cataract symptoms are sometimes able to be aided with new glasses, magnifying lenses or better lighting. Once the symptoms of cataracts start to impact daily activities more regularly, surgery may be the best option. No long term damage is done by postponing cataract surgery so it’s best to make sure you are comfortable with the procedure and determine if it is the best course of action for you. Take time to discuss the benefits and risks associated with surgery with your eye doctor.

During cataract surgery, the lens is removed and replaced with an artificial lens. It is placed in the same position as your natural lens. If you have cataracts in both eyes that are ready to be removed, the doctor will often perform the procedure on one eye and then perform surgery on the other eye one to two months later. This surgery is generally very safe and you should be able to return to normal activities after a few days. While there may be some initial blurriness, your eye should be fully healed after about 8 weeks. If you do have any questions or concerns, your doctor is the best resource to talk to since each case is different and they will be familiar with your treatment.